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IC 5146: The Cocoon Nebula
The Cocoon Nebula, cataloged as IC 5146, is a strikingly beautiful nebula located about 4,000 light years away toward the constellation of Cygnus. Inside the Cocoon is a newly developing open cluster of stars. Like other stellar nurseries, the Cocoon Nebula is, at the same time, an emission nebula, a reflection nebula, and an absorption nebula. The massive star BD +46°3474 in the center of the above image opened a funnel-shaped hole in an existing molecular cloud through which much of the glowing material flows. The same star, which formed about 100,000 years ago, now provides the energy source for much of the emitted and reflected light from this nebula.